Greetings to you in the name of Christ our Lord!
Sisters and Brothers,
The classic hymn, “Silent Night,” first made its debut on Christmas Eve, 1818 at the St. Nicholas chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. The melody by composer Franz Gruber is instantly recognizable from the first few notes, and the original text by Joseph Mohr has been translated from the original German into over 140 languages. In 1914, just four years shy of the 100th anniversary of “Silent Night,” the soldiers fighting World War I along the Western Front held a ceasefire in some areas out of mutual respect for the holiday. Members from opposing sides exchanged gifts and stories with one another, played games, and sang Christmas carols together, including the beloved hymn “Silent Night.” Today, churches all over the world gather together each year on Christmas Eve to light candles, sing “Silent Night,” and participate in a timeless tradition of inimitable ritual power.
Today, in 2018, our communities, our churches, and our world are torn and divided about many issues of cultural contention. Families fight, politicians argue, “flame wars” spread ignorance and hate on the Internet, and sometimes we feel that hope, peace, love, and light are missing from our lives. Perhaps this Christmas could be a time of ceasefire from our own sources of conflict. Perhaps this year, we will raise our voices in song to celebrate the birth of Christ with spirits of peace and love that transcends all barriers.
This does not mean we advocate for the silencing of anyone whose voice needs to be heard–especially those on the margins in need of economic, social, and political justice. Rather, perhaps the silence helps us to listen, hearing those voices more clearly and drawing us to hear Jesus’ cry in them.
Throughout Advent and into Christmas Eve we will use the text of Silent Night to guide us to a deeper understanding of God’s peace, joy, love and hope and our roles as disciples of Jesus Christ. Just as our children’s messages during Advent will demonstrate our capacity to soothe a crying baby, we claim our agency to be a part of the soothing of humanity and to bring the gifts we have to the manger of Jesus Christ, God-with-us, cradle of hope. This is the work of a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the thought behind our special projects during Advent. We are collecting items to make care packages for FIRST RESPONDERS in Pike County, TOYS for KIDS, as well as CHRISTMAS GIFTS for residents at Twin Cedars Assisted Living in Shohola (where Marion Steele is currently regaining her strength from a stroke). It is also how we will use our resources for our special Christmas offerings, which will support the work of United Methodist ministries around the country.
By practicing calm, perhaps we can also listen more deeply to the needs of others, especially those we feel “oppose” us in some way. This daunting task requires guidance. Just as the people yearned for God’s presence in the social and political context into which Jesus was born, we need God’s guiding light for our time.
For me, the Good News to proclaim throughout this season is that God’s guidance in the image of the star of our faith narrative, continues to shine if we have eyes to see. God’s peace, joy, love and hope will spread if we claim our role and our agency to receive it, to tend it, and to pass it on, like the candles we light on Christmas Eve that slowly grow to fill the sanctuary with light.
Together we will celebrate 200 years of Silent Night! I do so hope you can make every effort to attend church each Sunday as we prepare our hearts for Emmanuel!
Rev. Luana Cook Scott